Schools are turning to smoking detection devices to help them pick out underaged smokers in their schools as the problem of underaged smoking has worsened in Singapore.

Above 6,200 smokers below 18, including some from primary school, were caught last year. This is an increase of 17 per cent as compared to the 5,311 caught in 2013, according to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

HSA says that most of the underage smokers were 15 to 17 years old. The rise in numbers could partly be because of more enforcement.

However, some teachers say that they noticed more student smokers in their schools in recent years. Some pick up smoking in primary school. Some end up puffing 10 sticks a day by the time they enter secondary school. Habitual offenders often use hidden corners or toilets to do the deed, away from their teachers and peers’ prying eyes.

Greenridge and Chestnut Drive secondary schools are among several schools which have used “smokerlysers” – portable devices that measure carbon monoxide, a by-product of cigarette smoke – to monitor if students smoke. Newer versions of these devices can detect cigarette use from as far as two days back.

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) said that these devices are used in its stop-smoking campaign in schools.

Regent Secondary School plans to install cigarette smoke detectors in the common areas of five of its male toilets. It wants detectors that can log the exact location and time when someone smokes, and send an alert to the school’s general office and a message to a staff member’s mobile phone.

The effectiveness of such efforts remains to be seen, as experts say that it would take more influence than detection to curb the problem of underage smoking.

Persons below 18 caught using, buying or possessing tobacco products can be fined up to $300. First-time offenders can waive their fines if they finish an online stop-smoking module.

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